Tuesday, April 3, 2012

WLS & You (& Your Spouse)

Disclaimer #1: Since I am a wife of nearly 19 years and my hubby has been by my side through this surgical journey, I will be discussing this issue from that point of view. I do however understand that some of you may be dating, may have a significant other, or currently unattached (or any number of other situations out there). However, I think that many of the points I make today can apply in non-romantic relationships as well. So, don’t let my use of the word Spouse scare you away.

Disclaimer #2: After completing this blog and reading back over it, I must warn you that today is one of my “chatty” days so this blog is on the longish side. I cannot be held accountable for eye strain, broken noses due to face plants on your keyboard when you fall asleep reading this, or your spouse/child whining at you wondering when you’re going to get done with the computer. Read ahead at your own risk! (But I did add in pictures to make it more fun!)

This is me back in high school where Ryan and I first met. I thought I was as big as a barn (Check out my What Lies Beneath Series - 4parts, to find out more about how my childhood shaped these thoughts. ), but as you can see I was not. I also thought I was ugly enough to scare the stink off a skunk. Again, as you can see I was not. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized this. I was going through some old photos and came across some from high school.

When I saw this one I almost cried. I really didn’t recognize this girl. It couldn’t be me. But it was, and I wasn’t the hideous fat old ogre I thought myself to be.

Back in our early days, Ryan wasn’t much of one to tell me I was pretty or beautiful. (He tells me all the time now.) I think in his teenage boy/young adult male mind it was implied that if he wanted to kiss me, make out with me, or have sex with me that he must find me attractive. I was under the impression that it was more my personality that attracted him. (Oh, and my boobs. I’ve always had a nice rack.)

And in fact for many years, even after we were married, I wholeheartedly believed that I was not good enough for him. I was terrified that some day he would figure that out. I just knew he was going to find a beautiful, thin girl and fall madly in love with her. Then looking at her next to me, he would realize his dreadful mistake. One of my first clues that he really was truly and honestly in love with me, and didn’t just “think” he was, came the day our daughter was born. We had been married 2 years. When I delivered her, my epidural had come out of my back, so I had no pain meds in me. They had to do an episiotomy, and I felt every bit of it. It shocked and hurt me so much that I screamed. At that point Ryan began to cry. He felt helpless seeing me in pain and couldn’t stand it. There in the delivery room, seconds away from delivering our daughter I had an epiphany….he really did love me!!!

Please understand, the problem was all mine, not his. He never did anything to make me doubt that he loved me. He told me and showed me all the time. But in my mind I thought, “He just thinks he loves me. Some day he will find someone he really loves, and I’ll lose him.” I realize now that it was a very twisted way to think. But that’s what my warped sense of self did to me back then. I felt that no one could truly love me…because I didn’t truly love myself. I had been taught that I was un-loveable.

You’ve seen what I looked like back in the day when he met me. All of that changed after I had our daughter. The doctors convinced me to take depopravera for birth control after I had her. They promised me that despite the “rumors” the shots would not make me gain more than maybe five pounds over the course of an entire year! Well, that didn’t sound so bad, so I did it. I had that stuff in my system for six months. And in that six months I gained 60 lbs! Yep, gained 10 lbs a month for six months without changing my eating habits, my activity level (except that I was taking care of a baby), or anything else. I shot up from a size 16/18 after delivering my daughter to a 22 in six months. It was horrible.

And it was hard for my husband to accept. He was too nice to say it, but it really bothered him. I wasn’t the same girl he had married. My self–confidence was gone. I dressed horribly, because all we could afford in plus sizes were frumpy t-shirts from Wal-Mart…you know, the kind grandma’s would wear (no offense to grandmas, but I was only 22). Gone were the days of my sexy bra and panty sets, cute sundresses, and satin nighties. Hello granny panties, and worn out t-shirts! A year and a half after our daughter was born I gave up on my hair as well and chopped off my long locks. The girl he had married was nowhere to be found.

Our love life suffered. And it didn’t help that I started having flash backs to things that were done to me as a child. These flashbacks would come out of the blue in the middle of an intimate moment, and leave us both feeling horrid. It was a good thing we were best friends and stationed far from home where we had to depend on each other.

As the years went by, I worked hard to overcome my childhood issues. Ryan worked hard to overcome his disappointment in what I had become. He loved me too much to let my size come between us, but it was something he did have to put some effort into. Please, don’t think he is shallow. He is far from it. His love for me never faltered, but the physical attraction suffered some. He put his love for me ahead of his idea of what was physically attractive, and learned to find me attractive as I was…by focusing in on how much he loved me and what it was that he loved about me. I am truly blessed to have a man that loves me as much as Ryan does. Many times I’ve told him that lesser men would have left me long ago.

Our love and our friendship kept our marriage alive. So did some marriage retreats and self-help books for couples. Eventually we found ourselves in a place where my flashbacks became a thing of the past themselves, and our passion for each other was burning once again. We had grown in so many ways. We had learned to accept ourselves and each other as we were. And that was an amazing place to be!

This is where I found myself when I decided to have gastric bypass surgery. For years I had tried diet after diet…cabbage soup diets, Richard Simmon’s Deal A Meal, Weight Watchers, counting calories, etc., etc., etc. You all know the drill. But none of it had worked. And I was yearning for a way to lose the weight. I was finally at a point in my life where I was happy and felt complete, and I didn’t want to lose that because I had a heart attack and died due to all my excess weight. I didn’t want to burden myself and my family with diabetes. I wanted to live a long, happy, full life with my family and friends.

So when my sister mentioned weight loss surgery, I perked up and listened. In the past I had sworn it off. I had heard the naysayers telling how dangerous it was, and I hadn’t wanted to consider it before. But this time, I did the research. This time, I reached out into the WLS community and talked to people who were living it. And I was able to determine that this was exactly the tool I needed. I’m not foolish enough to think of it as a magic fix for my weight issues. I know I have to work for it in order for it to work for me.

So that brings me to the present. I had my surgery a little over a month ago. And the weight is already dropping off me. I have a long way to go, but I’m so thrilled with the results so far. And so is Ryan. But bless his heart, he tries so hard to hide his excitement. He’s so afraid that I will think he didn’t love me the way I was, or he wasn’t attracted to me then. Or that I have to lose the weight to get his approval. But I know better. I know he loved me and was attracted to me even at my highest weight.

In the past few years I had started taking better care of myself again. I’d started dressing better, wearing cuter clothes, as cute as I could find in my size. And things were wonderful between us. Never once did Ryan pressure me to lose weight or have this surgery. Never once did he give me a hard time about what I ate, how active I was (or wasn’t), or what number was on the scale. He loved me for me. And that was one of the things that empowered me to have this surgery.

You see, I did this for me. It was my choice. He never pushed it, even after I started talking about it, and looking into it. He just supported me every step of the way. So now, I want him to be able to sit back with me and enjoy the benefits of this surgery. I can see already that he appreciates it. He spends a lot of time rubbing my arms, feeling the difference in them. He makes cute little comments like, “I can see your metatarsals!” or “You have muscles!” He also hugs me longer. The other day he kept locking his hands behind my back with a huge smile on his face. And this morning he stopped in his tracks as he was walking up saying something to me. He stopped mid-sentence and his jaw dropped a bit and his eyes opened wide and he said, “You’re getting so small! Your face is smaller!” He truly notices all the changes my body is going through.

But he hesitates to show too much excitement. He hesitates to show how much it turns him on. He hesitates to say too much about it, and how he feels. He hesitates, because he doesn’t want me to think that he didn’t love me as I was. And I love him for it. But I want him to enjoy it! I want it to excite him! I want it to turn him on! And I want him to be comfortable telling me these things.

You see this weight loss journey is a lot for us who have had the surgery to take in. It’s a lot for us to adjust to. But it’s a lot for our spouses, family, and loved ones to take in and deal with as well. They’ve come to see us in a certain way, grown accustomed to how we were. And they don’t always know how to respond to the changes that are taking place. Some, like Ryan, may love what they see, but not know if it’s okay to express it. Some may feel intimidated. Some may be skeptical. Some may just not know what to say or do.

So my advice? Do what I did. Sit down and talk to them. Tell them what you need from them. Tell them it’s okay for them to feel the way they do. After all, their feelings are as valid as ours. (Now this advice is for those loved ones that love and support you through this, not the Negative Nancys that are trying to sabotage you. That’s a whole different topic.) Keep communication open! Talk about your feelings. Blog about them. Talk to your friends and family and let them know what you are going through…good or bad. Just keep talking it out. You can learn to adjust together. And as you do, you can learn to enjoy the new you, and the new life you have…together.


LuLu Kellogg said...

This is one of the most heartfelt posts I have read. I have tears in my eyes. You truly have a wonderful husband my dear!


Val said...

This made me cry! I am so happy for you and Ryan,I know over the past 20 yrs you've had alot to overcome and I'm sure being a military wife wasn't always easy either! But you guys have outlasted any obstacle thrown your way and I am happy and proud for you both. I knew you for all of those yrs and of course you never looked like an ogre LOL you were always a good friend and you deserve the best after all you've been through! Love you!-Val

Lori said...

Well, poo. I had made a very long post about this, then didn't publish it and lost it :( But in short, you made me cry. The end :)

Michelle Jackson said...

I'm sorry, ladies. I didn't intend for this to make anyone cry. I swear! Why is this post causing tears?

fatgirlchangingherworld said...

Oh Michelle! I just loved this post! So much is happening to us,(the WLS post-op's), but so much is happening for our beloved spouses as well. Thank you for reminding us to look at these wonderful partners in our lives, and recognize how thrilled/excited/nervous they must be feeling over our successes. Like you, I was lucky enough to find my soulmate before WLS...and to know in my heart that he has always loved me no matter what the packaging. This serves our relationship well now and into the future, as I start to thin down and become attractive to the opposite sex...(apparently i have been checked out once or twice, but I never notice these things) being so grounded in our mutual love for each other, thankfully we don't have to worry jealousy or anything like that. I am SO GRATEFUL for the foundation of our relationship...because it's based purely on love & respect & communication...which sounds like the same thing Your marriage is based on. Congratulations on your success, and tell Ryan I think he's great too!

Michelle Jackson said...

I'm so glad you liked it! :) Sounds like you've got a good man! And I'll relay your message to Ryan! :)

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